Netflix | Never Have I Ever Web Series Review: Never felt so 15 (in a nice way)!
By being, on the surface, a fine, feisty purveyor of the web, binge, celebrity/pop culture, as it were. Sure enough, we continue to remain collectors/hunters of current cool. As we should; keeps us healthy in the head, I guess.
Never Have I Ever
Creators: Mindy Kaling, Lang Fisher
Cast: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Poorna Jagannathan
Have watched an episode of Riverdale, and moved on rather quickly, knowing that it isn't a show for good ol' Archie Andrews readers from '90s (like me). Sex Education, on the other hand, I couldn't take beyond the first few minutes, feeling mentally quite distant from the high-school campus it's set in. To extend the same logic, Never Have I Ever is so not my kinda show. And?
So what! Seriously, that's what was simultaneously playing on my mind as, episode after episode, I found myself so naturally gravitating to the world of mid-teenagers, chiefly led by a 'Kevin Arnold level of naturalness' Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as the breezy, bright Devi — her BFFs, her nerdy competitor in class, hunk for a crush in a California high-school; a strong, single mom (Poorna Jagannathan) at home, a dead dad in heaven, the works.
Watch the trailer here:
Firstly I love this show's title — wanna steal it, probably will; it's a party-game, no one can own the line. So how exactly does this show breach the basic expectations of its genre or target-audience to speak to someone who's neither a parent — Indian parent of teenagers, in particular — nor an aspiring counsellor/teacher?
By being, on the surface, a fine, feisty purveyor of web, binge, celebrity/pop culture, as it were. Sure enough we continue to remain collectors/hunters of current cool. As we should; keeps us healthy in the head, I guess.
Now, do I feel too cool for school at 15, slightly? Simultaneously googling some of the stuff that comes up in conversations here? Or picking up slang for street-cred while kids imagine "plundering each other's bods, on the reg?" "Ah what, beg your P?" Never mind.
Don't know if anyone ever wants to sincerely return to when they were 15 when, in hindsight, we seemed like the flooziest versions of ourselves (often quite cruel to peers and parents as well). That said, it helps with the overall quality of discourse that the characters here are sort of geeky and well-read. They could even be high-school, female versions of boys from The Big Bang Theory if you like.
Also what comes across rather convincingly is how Gen-Z (born between late '90s and 2010s), raised with the Internet — their exposure to content, technologies and cultures being unprecedented — also make for the most mingling and least judgmental of all generations. That's how we evolve of course.
It's not even an afterthought therefore that the central character in this mainstream, teeny American Netflix series, set in LA county, is a girl of South Indian origin, who abhors Ganesh pooja, and counts among her close friends, a black, and an oriental girl, a Jew, and a half-Japanese boy. I'm mentioning it here for what it is. It doesn't even occur to you as an audience of this global, 10-episode series/season, co-created by Vera Chokalingam, best known as the comedian Mindy Kaling. I'm gonna ignore Tamil spoken on the show being passed off for Hindi in the subtitles though.
What does matter is how this insouciant lead-character Devi is the sort of kid you'd love to know better and learn from, rather than toss gyan to. Also the fact that generations and geography apart, the way we navigate relationships stays so much the same. Which is why, besides all the street-cred and lightness of touch, it's the characters, full of empathy, that help you get to the heart of this deeply relatable, warmly scripted comedy.
Every generation gets and deserves its own quintessential, antsy teenage drama, patiently playing out Over nights and days in realistic real-time. They survive for decades — progressively building a cult of their own. For that moment they serve as fine periscopes for others to understand them better through. God, I missed Wonder Years for some reason. There can be no better compliment!
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